I had high hopes for Xian Lim when I heard last year that his film qualified for Cinemalaya. Wow, a mainstream actor showing a more artistic side to him. Perhaps his years of working in multiple films and teleseryes gave him the inspiration to develop a concept. With a heavy heart, his directorial debut Tabon falls short of expectations.
That’s not to say it’s irredeemably bad — it’s definitely way better than some the duds over the years. In fact, the first act of the movie sets up a good, intriguing mystery of a son (Christopher Roxas) investigating the murder of his estranged father (Menggie Cobarubbias). In an interview, Xian even alludes to Akira Kurosawa and Nick Joaquin as inspirations. The musical score is great and the grainy cinematography adds to the gritty aesthetic.
The two latter acts focus on a whodunit among the three suspects. But this is where the film falters and becomes more and more frustrating to watch. In service of a final twist, most characters speak in riddles and intentionally ignore answering questions. Without getting anything solid or substantial, it’s very hard for us to care or get invested with anyone actually learning the truth. And the sad thing is, that final twist wasn’t that huge of a twist at all — was all the ambiguity worth it?
Tabon had promise and all the elements were there to make it a good mystery film, but it just needs a bit more polish. Let’s see how Xian fares in his next go-round.